Like any thriving city in the western world, population growth and congestion is a major issue facing urban planners in Melbourne. Cities such as Melbourne have started to use generic plans to solve these issues. Furthermore, the city has a legacy to protect; in the past few years it was hailed as the most liveable city in the world. That notion is being put to the test today as transport networks within and towards the city are constantly under stress while plans from the government are constantly being put under the microscope by the public. I refer here to a government plan for either a new East-West tolled roadway with a cost of 4.5 billion, versus the option of a new underground rail alternative, both of which have strong opposition. These plans aim to solve the issues created by the very same institutions that got Melbourne in this situation in the first place.

The emphasis here is on population issues that perpetuate these linked issues such as transport congestion, environmental degradation and cost of living, among others. Melbourne will see a population growth of up to one million people in the next thirty years. This is an astonishing figure considering how the infrastructure of the city is currently barely able to keep up with the demand the population places on it. There needs to be a change.

The Old Clock Tower at Melbourne Central Station

Heritage building integrated with a new development

The Melbourne 2030 plan, which seems to be a generic plan that most local governments worldwide are moving to adopt, aims to remove emphasis from the city and places more focus on peripheral towns in regional areas. This is an attempt not only to reduce growth rates in the city, but to develop these regions. This seems to be nothing but beneficial to the regional centres and will allow more and better transport networks and public amenities to be available to them. The government will incentivize this push towards repopulating these regional centers by offering tax breaks to companies, offering first home buyers grants and promoting international migrants to those areas through visa stimulants.

What is interesting about all of these planned developments is the possibility of creating a whole new problem. With this focus on regional centres, populations will grow and continue to grow in these soon thriving regional areas. Will this lead to another situation of overpopulation in thirty plus years as Melbourne finds itself in today? Is the idea of the city not just an engine for population growth and if so will this not affect future populations negatively, regardless of what we do now to control it?

Life in the Melbourne City Streets

A look at low peak hours in the heart of Melbourne

It seems to be a situation in which there is a perpetual loss in the standard of living. Melburnians will soon have to accept overcrowded trains and trams as a standard and the title of most liveable city in the world will continue to go to whichever city can manage its overpopulation, not to the city that adequately manages its population.

Urban planning and architecture can have an effect on population increase. However, this has not been acknowledged by modern planners. It seems that their only concern is with dealing with the aftermath of issues and not the issues themselves. A good place to start would be looking at indigenous culture in Australia as this is an example of a culture that, even with its limited technological progress, managed to survive off the land and create generations of tradition without growing to an unsustainable population level. There is a lot we can learn from Australia’s history but there is even more we can learn from Australia’s aboriginal history.

Will Melbourne realize this and start being proactive rather than reactive?

Credit: Images by Kunal Matikiti, data linked to sources.